For Parents & Educators: From STEM to STEAM Education / by Jamillia Kamara

by Jalaal Hayes

I do not know about you, but throughout my observations, there have been many programs that now want to get heavily involved in the concept of science and mathematics. I guess one of the reasons this is happening may be due to the funding and the dire need for the United States to get back on track in being a top innovative country in the world.

Nevertheless, through their efforts, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education has been enforced through the K-12 curriculum in each state to help achieve the milestone of producing phenomenal individuals in STEM. This has been done through classroom instruction, afterschool programs, summer program, and occasional trips to National Aeronautical Space Administration (NASA) , Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and many other scientific research companies and agencies.


Recently, there has been some debate on whether the arts should be included in the STEM curriculum creating STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics). Some educators suggest that the arts and sciences are two separate disciplines and should stay separate due to the following:

1)  A STEM workforce is much more in demand than an artist/creative workforce

2)  Agencies support STEM rather than STEAM.

3)  Politicians’ do not have a personal interest innovation STEM innovation unless there is some financial award involved.

However, others (like myself) believe that the arts are necessary and therefore must be connected with the sciences.

In this article, I state why the arts should be connected with STEM to move with #FullSTEAMAhead:

Art is naturally connected to STEM. If we look at the concepts of STEM, we can see the creativity and the ingenuity the arts provide each letter of the acronym. For example, product design (engineering) and the creation of user experience and interface (technology) are needed in order to attract a customer base and the creativity to attract those customers comes from conversation and thinking from the creativity side of our brains.

History dictates that art is a creative science. Reflecting back in ancient times, Leonardo Da Vinci discussed the anatomy of a human being through an interesting picture.

Art is naturally connected to STEM. If we look at the concepts of STEM, we can see the creativity and the ingenuity the arts provide each letter of the acronym.

Before the science language economy became popular, most of the scientific discoveries were expressed in the form of pictures and lucid diagrams rather than the scientific jargon that we have in today’s society. It took the minds of an artistic and a scientist to decode the language of various individuals who contributed to STEM. Even recently approximately three or four decades ago, scientists took a humanities course (German language) to understand the scientific articles that were written in such language.

I will admit, as a historian, I still used my history degree to conduct literature review sessions to see what discoveries have been made and what still needed to be discovered so I could identify where a scientific impact can be made.

Art helps communicate the concepts and discoveries of STEM to the masses. One of the biggest reasons why the majority will not get engaged and committed to STEM but will get committed to STEAM is because the miscommunication that STEM does at times.

For example, when I was in graduate school and I would communicate my energy research with other scientists and mathematicians, there was an instant connection of understanding the ideas and concepts behind the research. However, when I try to have a conversation with my family or friends, there was always miscommunication and a mental disconnect on my research. The concept of art connects to the majority much more than STEM because art is clearly connected to the connotations and denotations of our culture. With STEAM, the arts will act as a translator to STEM in which people will be able to not only understand science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, but also want to connect with it more.

4) Make it fun! In my humble opinion, I believe that arts make everything fun and add color to the world that we love in. Here is an analogy: STEM is like a black and white television set. It gives the information that it needs and serves a primary function to the community. STEAM, however, is like the color television. It still gives information that it is needed and serves a purpose to the community, however, it appeals more to the masses and therefore creates a space for more conversation about innovation and taking things to the next level.

Overall, STEAM is definitely the way to go in terms of creating and innovation something phenomenal in society. Like the late Steve Jobs stated, I challenge you to “Think Differently”. 


Jah for Smart Is Cool

Dr. Jalaal Hayes is an award winning chemist, educator and entrepreneur. His personal mission is to make STEAM simple for students through teaching. Hayes was the youngest Doctoral Candidate conferred at Delaware State University and is a native of North Philadelphia. Connect with him on Facebook.